Amy Adams on Eyes That Deceive


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Amy Adams in “Nocturnal Animals.”

Credit
Merrick Morton/Focus Features

Amy Adams has received five Oscar nominations and this year is poised to land her sixth, for her performance in Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival,” a stirring sci-fi drama about a linguist and mother tasked with communicating with aliens. She also stars as an unhappy Hollywood gallerist in Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals.”

Ms. Adams sat down with the Bagger for a brief chat on, of all days, Nov. 9.

Ms. Adams steered clear of politics — “it’s a time for reflection,” is all she would say — but confessed to having slept little the night before. She spoke about what she describes as “the blank nature of my face” and the unexpected joy of not preparing to get naked onscreen in front of Mr. Ford. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.

At the beginning of your career you were known for more joyful roles, but in these two movies, these are somber and even, in the case of “Nocturnal Animals,” tortured women. Do you feel like there’s a natural evolution to that?

Definitely. It takes you to a more reflective place, as you get older. Before I was just sort of working to find a niche, and now it feels like I’m taking roles with more intention. I feel more in control of my instrument, so I feel like, ‘Yeah, let’s do that, let’s try different things.” Let’s take, and I say [here she made air quotes] risks, because at the end of the day I’m only risking humiliation. I’m not really risking my life or anything.

Yet you’re very vulnerable; you can see it in your eyes. You’re known for that, this sort of naked thing.

The thing is, my eyes photograph on camera really big. I don’t know if it’s the color, the shape. The sort of blank nature of my face. I have one of those faces, without makeup, it’s literally a gesso canvas. On my flight, the steward came up and said, “I kept thinking I knew you from somewhere!” He only recognized me after he heard my voice.

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Amy Adams in “Arrival.”

Credit
Jan Thijs/Paramount Pictures

That must be nice, being able to slip by unnoticed in everyday life.

I love it, I get to be a mama. I get to navigate the world for the most part.

You said you initially felt not much of a connection with the role, until you had a conversation with Denis about what the core of the story was about. Can you talk about that?

I think I was more concerned [with] how it would play in the final film. I knew that it was going to be sci-fi and that it was written as a very intimate portrayal of a mother telling a very complicated, scientific, nuanced story to her daughter, about the decisions she made. It just felt commercially risky. But Denis was onboard. And I could tell from the way he spoke that he had this emotional, he had an intellectualism. That’s probably not the word. For someone who plays a linguist it takes me a long time to find the right word.

Emotional intelligence?

There it is. That’s what I’m looking for. This is what today has done to me. [Denis] has an emotional intelligence that I trusted when I met him. He looks you in the eyes. I trust that.

“Nocturnal Animals” came after that and you wore these gorgeous high-fashion clothes. Were you able to eat at all?

I did get to, which was nice, especially for the scenes when I was younger, because I wanted my face to look younger [by looking more rounded]. You know films shoot out of order. One night, they said, “Can we shoot the shower and bathtub scene?” And I was like, “You gotta give me time. I’m still on solids!” I say that as a joke. But it made me more un-self-conscious because I hadn’t spent all this time thinking about what I needed to look like.

You’ve been nominated for Oscars five times — is it stressful going through the whole process again and again?

It’s easy to get caught up, not in the nominations — not in the reward-award aspect of it, but just in everything that it becomes. The red carpets and the overimportance. It’s easy for that to sort of take center stage in that moment, especially when you’re a young woman. For me, it definitely at times is overwhelming, that whole process. But I’m always grateful because the nomination for “Junebug” and campaigning launched what is my current career. So I can’t poo-poo the process.

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